I knew nothing about this book before reading it, and I think that is one of the reasons it worked so well for me. So I will reveal as little as possible about the plot in this review. The story is told from multiple points of view, starting out with Reason, a fifteen-year-old Australian girl who's spent her entire life moving from place to place with her mother. They are on the run from Reason's grandmother, who, from the stories Reason's mother has told her, is a wicked, deluded woman who believes she has magical powers, and she wants custody of Reason.
The book opens with Reason, terrified in her grandmother's car, being taken to her grandmother's house. She refuses to speak to her grandmother, and she knows she must find a way to escape. But how to rescue her mother, who has now been admitted to a mental hospital?
Of course there is more to her grandmother than meets the eye, and possibly less truth in her mother's stories about her horrible childhood. Or is there? Reason is flung into a world that she never imagined, having lived in remote villages in the Australian outback her entire life. She meets Tom, her grandmother's teenaged neighbor, who seems to worship the ground her grandmother walks on, and before long finds herself swept away to another world, where everything is cold and snowy, and there are dangers to be feared even more than her grandmother.
I loved this book, its intriguing premise about magic, the characters, the dialog, the pacing. It drew me in immediately, and the point-of-view shifts were an effective way of giving the story depth and tension. Often I take a little break between reading books in the same series, but I couldn't wait to see what happened with Reason and her friends, so I picked up the next volume of the trilogy as soon as I finished this one (review to follow). I highly recommend this book - it's definitely going to be on my list of favorites read this year!
Books in the Magic or Madness trilogy:
1. Magic or Madness
2. Magic Lessons
3. Magic's Child
Magic or Madness (#1 in the Magic or Madness trilogy) by Justine Larbalestier (Firebird Books, 2005)
Also reviewed at:
A Reader's Year
The Holly and the Ivy